A Season of Hope. Compassion

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For the last nine years, Eric Schmitt-Matzen has dressed up as Santa to spread joy around Knoxville, Tennessee.

A few weeks ago, he also brought peace to a five-year-old terminally ill boy, who ended up dying in his arms.

The 60-year-old Schmitt-Matzen was working at his day job as a mechanical engineer in Jacksboro when a nurse called him from a nearby hospital.

The name of the hospital is not being named out of the privacy of the parents.

“She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’” She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’”

When Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital, he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he met the boy’s family and was given a toy to give to him.

Schmitt-Matzen also gave the boy a pep talk.

“I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!

“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’”

Schmitt-Matzen said the boy then asked him point blank: “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”

The kindly Kris Kringle figure told the boy to just tell everyone “you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”

Schmitt-Matzen then hugged the boy as the child died in his arms.

The story has since gone viral and is touching people based on social media comments.

The experience was emotionally draining for Schmitt-Matzen, who admits he thought about hanging up his Santa suit for good.

He has since changed his mind after doing what he thought was one final show, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

“When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play,” he said. “For them and for me.”

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A Season of Hope. Holiday Commercials.

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The commercialism of holidays is something we’ve been hearing about for decades.

Greg Lake, who passed away yesterday, penned the song with Peter Sinfield,  “I believe in Father Christmas” in the mid 70’s. Although it is often categorised as a Christmas song, this was not Lake’s intention. He said that he wrote the song in protest at the commercialisation of Christmas.

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas Tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
‘Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked TO the sky with excited eyes
‘Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

I want to believe that everyone (except for advertising executives while at work) want to get away from the commercialization. They want this time of year to be about Peace and Hope. That may be why there are a few commercials every year that are released to actually make you feel good.

 

You are destined to see this in a later post because it is based on an actual event.

Sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation you are in

A reminder to slowdown and spend sometime with your family

 

And (in my opinion) the best commercial for 2017- MOZ the Monster

Season of Hope. The Psychology of HOPE

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Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it—will not get you there. Sure, it helps. But a wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t be bothered to drive it, you won’t get anywhere.

Many have proposed lots of different vehicles over the years. Grit, Conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society.

That’s hope.

Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. or Don Quixote tilting against windmills. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.

Hope is not a brand new concept in psychology. In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways.  The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.

Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to believe that they can accomplish their goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.
Those lacking hope, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.

It seems that performance can be enhanced in the short term by reminding people that they have the motivation and the means to pursue a goal. This “situational hope” could potentially be useful in the future as a means of short-term intervention to enhance performance. By reminding people before tests or situations in which performance and achievement are required that they have the will and the ways to do well, possible potential can be better utilized.

Athletes had higher levels of hope than non-athletes. I have seen that among my gymnasts, the state of having hope predicted outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.

I like to think that current ability is the best predictor of future success. Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.

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Season of Hope. Holiday Movies!

I missed writing yesterday. Just a crazy busy day. We had our first significant snowfall and I had to plow my gyms.

There are so many wonderful holiday movies. Most are at least well done. There is not one particular movie that I MUST see every year. But there are many that I enjoy.

Here are my favorites.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Scrooged

Trading Places

Christmas Carol (1938)

Meet Me in St Louis.

The Santa Clause

 

Miracle on 34th St. (1947)

Gremlins

Joyeux Noel

Christmas Vacation

Christmas Story

Holiday Inn

Home Alone

Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer

and no Christmas is complete without seeing Hans Gruber fall of the Nakahashi Towers. Die Hard

Have a favorite? Let me know!

Twitter @tretrosi

 

Season of Hope. Remember that if you are reading this- you’ve got it pretty good.

We can call get so engrossed with our own lives and problems that we forget that others may need a helping hand. Not just this year, not just this time of year but every day, every year.

For the most part our biggest issues are overeating during the holiday season. Finding time to workout, making time to cook and buy presents.

We can help others. We can extend a helping hand. Take a minute to help someone. We will always be one world and we must be a world full of hope. That is what I want my legacy to be.

In 1984 I was in my first year of college.  Bob Geldof and Midge Ure formed the supergroup Band Aid  to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  On 25 November 1984, the song was recorded at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, and was released in the UK four days later.[4][5] The single surpassed the hopes of the producers to become the Christmas number one on that release.

Looking back it seemed like an obvious hit but at the time, it was a risk and a chance taken to help others.

The group reunited with current stars in 2014 to bring help to the Ebola Crisis in West Africa.

 

You don’t need to be a superstar to help those around you. You can get involved with groups within your community.

Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army and one I just learned about in my town, The Community Toolbox 

I fully believe that no man stands so tall as when he stoops down to help another.

 

Season of Hope. New Friends

WHAT A PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS!

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One of the most important and yet least understood areas of psychology concerns the role of friends in our lives. It is often awkward when you are at your spouse, partner or GF/BF holiday party. They know everyone, they are in on all the jokes. Find another awkward looking person at the party at strike up a conversation. You already have something in common, you would rather be somewhere else.

As I was finishing up school in NY I was invited to a Christmas party at a friends house. He gave me his address and I headed over there. I pulled onto the street saw cars were lined up down the street. I parked my car and followed a couple up the street into to the house. I walked in was welcomed, my jacket taken, a drink put in my hand and directed to the food. I made small talk and joined in some humorous talk. Looking around the party I realized I didn’t know anyone. I searched for friends and a wave of dread came over me when I realized, I AM AT THE WRONG HOUSE!

The host came in and asked if I needed anything,

Me, “No thank you, what a great party!”

Host, “You are at the wrong place aren’t you?”

Me, “ummm, yeah- but this party seems pretty great!”

Host, “I’ll get your jacket and you can sneak out the back door. I think the party you are looking for is 2 houses down.”

Me, “Thank you so much!”

I snuck out the back door (drink in hand) and went to the party that I was invited to. It was an equally fun party.

The next week I was getting a coffee and the guy in front of me looked familiar. Yep- The host of the party I crashed. We laughed, had a coffee together and had dinner and drinks a few times before I left for New Hampshire.

I have been pretty lucky to have made some great friends recently. I look forward to dinner and drinks with them. We always laugh and each night, no matter how casual, is memorable.

I am thankful for these friendships and look forward to sharing this holiday season with them.

When it comes to happiness, your friends are the key.

I’ve tried to distill Friendfluence into what I believe are its most important lessons.

Here are 15 reasons to appreciate your friends:

Friendfluence is the powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives. Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.

Friends can give you vital life skills.  There are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.

Childhood friendships start your learning process. Early friendships play a vital role because they occur while key developmental changes are taking place. They help teach us some of those important life skills but also shape our life “narrative.”

Teen friendships shape your later romantic bonds. Though parents spend much of their time worrying about who their teenage kids are with, these relationships are a training ground for the later long-term bonds that will evolve through adulthood.

Friends can help you define your priorities. People tend to pick friends who are similar to them. This fact falls under the general proximity rule of close relationships, in that like tends to attract like. Because we fall prey so easily into this similarity trap, it is important to try to stretch yourself to learn from some of those opposites.

Having friends can help you get more friends. People tend to like others who have a reputation for being nice and helpful, and they like people who like them. If you want to be the type of person who attracts new friends, these qualities will help get you on your way toward building your social group. Once you have more friends, you’ll be able to enjoy some of those perks of friendship.

Close friends support you through thick and thin. To take the most advantage of friendfluence, put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for your well-being.

You’re less lonely when you have friends.  Loneliness is painful, especially when you are living with loneliness for a prolonged period of time. This is yet another reason to put time, energy, and attention into finding and cultivating a close circle of friends.

Your online friends can steer your thoughts and behaviors. Although online friends are qualitatively different than your in-person friends, they shape you nevertheless. They can also be your source of life support.  Of course, your online friends can also make you miserable too, especially if you get caught in the “friendship paradox” (the fact that most people on Facebook have fewer friends than the average number). If you can avoid having Facebook envy dominate your life, you’ll have more rewarding connections with your extended friendship community.

Friends matter to you, regardless of gender. Although much is made of the difference between male friends, female friends, and male-female friend pairs, all share the qualities of having the potential to influence your life. If you restrict yourself to one certain type of friendship, you may be missing out on bonds that transcend gender boundaries.

Couple friendships can help your own relationship. People experiencing similar life events can often provide the most valuable support to each other. Unfortunately, some couples withdraw from their friendships when their relationship turns serious. You can benefit both from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family members.

Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress. Even though you may be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in these friendships will be worth the psychological benefits.

Friends can give you a reality check. Who but your closest friends will tell you that your new purchase is ridiculous? What person you meet on the street will let you know that your latest romantic interest is going to bring you heartbreak? Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you.

Banding together with friends can help you effect social change. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fight for a cause, raise money for charity, or even just make a few small improvements in your community on your own. Friends are the first step to building successful social movements. Facebook provides one way to enlist the support of thousands of people. At a less grandiose level, people are more likely to engage in helping and altruistic behavior at the urging of their close friends.

Being a friend helps your friends. Friendfluence works in two directions. Not only do you benefit from its many perks, but by being a good friend you are helping those closest to you.  If you are aware of how you’re affecting your friends, you’ll work harder to stay close to them which, in turn, will benefit you as well. Being a good friend also includes asking them for help when you need it.

Giving someone the gift of being influential can be one of the greatest joys you pass on to your friends.

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Season of Hope. Reconnecting

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Whether it’s a yearly holiday letter, greeting card, or email, the holidays remind us of our long-time relationships. Some people are very fortunate to remain geographically and emotionally close to their “oldest” (or longest) friends. Like many my ADULT life (I am still in denial about being an adult) has me pretty far away from the people I grew up with. In our very mobile society the odds are that you no longer live in easy traveling distance from the people you were closest to in childhood, adolescence, or even college.

An old friend never can be found, and nature has provided that he cannot easily be lost.

Samuel Johnson

There is something great about reconnecting with old friends. It helps to remind you of where you were. Even though you can’t go back in time and relive those days, it is nice to ground yourself once in a while. Good for the soul.

Wishing you can go back will be pretty hollow, but looking at that notch in time is a good way to evaluate your place in time- in the “now”. There will always be certain memories you wish to forget. Awkward times, painful experiences and there are also things you wish you could put in a highlight reel, those things you were proud of – the accomplishments of goals and desires you have had over the years.

Then there are those very special memories with those genuine friends and family that if you could “bottle” the feelings of comfort and joy, you would open that bottle frequently and drink that in.

I look forward to seeing  cards and letters from old friends or even their Facebook posts this time of year.  It helps me drink in those memories of the time we have spent together.

Many people who knew YOU also want to know how you are doing. Send them an e-mail! A lot of people feel it’s awkward and a little nerve racking to try to get back in touch with a friend they haven’t spoken to in a while. What often happens is someone will want to drop an old buddy a line, but then they’ll think, “It will be so weird sending them an email out of nowhere. How will they react to it? Will they wonder why I’m writing them now?”

This time of year there is nothing abnormal or weird about reaching out to an old friend. You just have to put your self out there and go!

My personal story, I grew up in upstate New York. Spent most of my life in Rome, NY then High School in Cortland. Although I was only in Cortland 4 years. They were important years. Difficult as it was trying to “fit in” with others who had been together since preschool. I did manage to make some connections and feel very lucky that I am still in touch with some of them. 

My first 2 years of college had me at a 2 year school in Utica. There I made a few connections and I wish I had stayed in touch with some of these people. As odd as it is the person I am closest to from that time is also the person who lives furthest away (But in a place where I often travel to). 

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Finishing up my college career at UNH I find myself still living in the area and therefore occasionally running into people I went to school and grad school with. 

Through put all of this there was my “Gymnastics Family”. Guys I did gymnastics with. Girls I coached, and those I coached with. 

I miss you all. If I have lost touch, please send me an e-mail! 

What Was The BEST Part of Your Day?

Those who have been to my house for dinner or those who have come to one of my camps or training camps know this familiar question.  “What was the BEST part of your day?”

It is a conversation starter. A chance at reflection about your day and a chance to share a moment with those around you. One person poses the question to someone who must answer and pass the question on.

You may not know it’s origin.

On September 11, 2001 my wife and I were on our way to the airport in Boston to begin a vacation in Italy. We were nervous leaving our two young children behind even though we had two great people at our house taking care of them.

We were at our gym, Atlantic Gymnastics, when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Phones started ringing, we did not have a TV or radio in the building so parents were crowded around a car in the parking lot listening to the news. We were sickened, worried and frightened. The news, the lack of news, the speculation was over whelming.

We called the kids school to see if they were releasing the students early. The tearful secretary said, NO. The children didn’t know what was going on and that they were going to keep their schedule as normal as possible. She asked who was calling. I told her my name and she let out a sigh of relief. She knew our travel plans and was worried that we were on one of the highjacked planes.

We closed the gym early that day and headed home. I grew up in NY and had many friends and family who I could not get in touch with. The kids came home from school and immediately could tell something was wrong. Mom and Dad were home instead of on their way to Italy. There was a tension in the house. It was hard not to cry. All I wanted to do was HUG them. All they wanted to do was go outside and play.

When we all sat down for dinner, the four of us plus our two house sitters, our neighbors came over. They were worried that we were on one of the planes. When they saw all the cars in the driveway they thought the worst. Big tearful hugs.

The tension at dinner was intense. My wife looking for a way to break the stress asked, “What was the BEST part of your day?” . My face must have betrayed my surprise. I was thinking- “are you crazy, this is a TERRIBLE day.”  She said “Even on a hard day- there is one thing that happens that is good or great. So- WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR DAY?”

I cannot remember how I answered. I do remember what she said. Her reply was. “Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday! I am so thankful for her in my life”.

To this day- each night, either at dinner or as we are relaxing at the end of the day someone asks, “What was the BEST part of your day?”.

Today- start that tradition in your house, In your gym, at your school, at your place of work. Ask someone- WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF YOUR DAY?

And because you read this far- You might as well tell me in the comments section- What was the best part of YOUR day?

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Joann and Stephanie in Firenze

 

This I Believe

Beginning in 1951, radio pioneer Edward R. Murrow asked Americans from all walks of life to write essays about their most fundamental and closely held beliefs . In creating This I Believe, Murrow said the program sought “to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.”

In spite of the fear of atomic warfare, increasing consumerism and loss of spiritual values, the essayists on Murrow’s series expressed tremendous hope. They heard a country moving toward more equality among the races and between genders. They heard parents writing essays that are letters to their newborn children expressing the hopes and dreams they have for them. And they heard the stories of faith that guide people in their daily experiences.

The events in Charlottesville, VA show us that as in the 1950s, this is a time when belief is dividing the nation and the world, We are not listening well, not understanding each other — we are simply disagreeing, or worse.  As an adult I feel that there’s a responsibility to change that, to cross borders, to encourage some empathy.

I want to hear what YOU believe. I have written about HOPE, I have written about PEACE. I want to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.

THIS I BELIEVE

I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating. I believe that people may be having MORE sex but that the sex may not necessarily be good and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all national politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that vaccines work and that the earth is round.

I believe that Robert Frost was the  greatest poets of the last century.

We are stardust. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid,  that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

I believe in love.

Ephesians 5:21 “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

People have forgotten the art of diplomacy and discussion or even debate. Everything seems to escalate to anger. It is OK to disagree. It is OK to have differences and love those differences. Although I was raised catholic I am not a religious person. I joke that I am a catholic in remission. I truly think that Christ would be horrified by the lack of decorum in our society. We waste our time yelling about whether you should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” while people are still without as adequate education, healthcare or even a home. Why would you want to hurt someone’s feelings by disrespecting their religion or beliefs just to make a point?

In  Ephesians 5:21 St. Paul begins the passage, “Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.” … “Be subject to one another …”  In this day and age of 24-hour cable crap devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of an American public hooked on a bad soap opera that’s passing itself off as important, don’t you think you might be able to find some relevance in verse 21? How do we end the cycle? “Be subject to one another.”

Understand that every person is an eternal spiritual being, uniquely expressive of the Light and Love of God – the indwelling spiritual energy that is the Christ. No one has an innate authority over anyone else.  We come together – in relationships, in families, in communities – to support each other in our shared spiritual purpose of creating the new consciousness that is the kingdom of heaven. From this perspective, Paul’s message becomes clearer. By reverencing the Christ in each other we allow our relationships to become fluid and flexible. We honor the unique spiritual identity of each individual. Sometimes I will support the Christ in you. Sometimes I will need you to support the Christ in me. No one is inherently in charge, and no one is innately subservient.

Just my thoughts for today